Skip to main content

Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres pray with Pope Francis for Mideast peace

By Steve Almasy, CNN
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 0458 GMT (1258 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pope Francis says meeting is for people who want to stop living as enemies
  • Israeli President Shimon Peres says peace must be pursued no matter how distant it seems
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calls for divine help to make the region secure

(CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres committed themselves to the quest for peace Sunday during a meeting of key figures in the Middle East peace process.

But unlike previous attempts to achieve a resolution to the region's turmoil through traditional means, there would be no negotiating nor any political talks at Sunday's summit. This appeal would be made to a higher calling: Abbas and Peres prayed for peace together Sunday at the Vatican home of Pope Francis.

The meeting comes two weeks after the Pope invited the two leaders to do so during his visit to the Holy Land.

"In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace" the Pope said in Bethlehem's Manger Square following a May 25 Mass, " I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace."

Sunday's meeting was a first for the Vatican, which had never hosted a prayer gathering of two leaders engaged in conflict.

However pious the agenda, the day wasn't totally free of political subtext.

After prayers read in Arabic, Hebrew and Italian by figures from different religions, each leader offered his own invocation.

"Without peace, we are not complete. We have yet to achieve this mission of humanity," Peres said. "Even when peace seems distant, we must pursue it to bring it closer."

"We ask you, Lord, for peace in the Holy Land, Palestine and Jerusalem," said Abbas, according to a CNN translator. "Together with its people, we call on you to make Palestine and Jerusalem, in particular, a secure land for all believers, a place of prayer and worship."

Pope Francis (R) meets Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Pope Francis (R) meets Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Pope said the meeting is the response to people who want to live as brothers and sisters and not as enemies.

"I hope that this meeting will be a journey toward what joins us, to overcome what divides us," Francis said.

The groundbreaking meeting -- which was the result of the Pope offering an olive branch two weeks ago -- concluded with the two men exchanging kisses on the cheek before they broke ground themselves for the planting of an olive tree.

Only time will tell if today's prayers will go answered.

"The metric that Pope Francis would be using to measure the success of this event is much longer term. I don't think anyone is expecting an immediate result," said CNN senior Vatican analyst John L. Allen Jr. "Now that said, you could also argue that the success of tonight could be measured by the simple fact that it happened."

CNN's Delia Gallagher and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 0239 GMT (1039 HKT)
According to widely cited Italian media reports, Pope Francis recently told a young boy grieving the loss of a pet dog that "paradise is open to all God's creatures."
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
Pope Francis said that modern slavery is a "crime against humanity" and is "unfortunately becoming worse and worse every day."
November 17, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Pope Francis is to make his first trip to the United States as the head of the Catholic Church next September.
A Vatican report says the church should welcome and appreciate gays, and offers a solution for divorced and remarried Catholics who want to receive Communion.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
Using his strongest language to date, Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
"Drug addiction is an evil, and with evil there can be no yielding or compromise," Pope Francis said.
June 20, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
No topic has been off limits for Pope Francis so far.
June 14, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
Pope Francis prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile because it is a glass "sardine can" that walls him off from people.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 0458 GMT (1258 HKT)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres committed themselves to the quest for peace with Pope Francis.
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 1846 GMT (0246 HKT)
As the Holy Land prepares for a papal visit, Ivan Watson speaks to the man preparing to honor the pontiff with his food.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1631 GMT (0031 HKT)
Not a jot of doctrine has changed in the year since Francis became Pope. But there's more than one way to measure his impact.
February 22, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Pope Francis created 19 new cardinals in a ceremony in the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica -- the first such appointments since he was elected pontiff.
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
"The spring evening in which Pope Francis was elected is an apt symbol of the beginning of his papacy and the years that will follow," writes a priest.
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1605 GMT (0005 HKT)
In a gesture towards Valentine's Day, Pope Francis gave his advice on how to have a happy marriage before thousands of couples.
March 12, 2014 -- Updated 2010 GMT (0410 HKT)
Take a look at Pope Francis' first year in photos with our gallery.
November 7, 2013 -- Updated 2343 GMT (0743 HKT)
It was the embrace that melted hearts worldwide.
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis kisses and hugs disabled boy lifted up in the crowd.
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1609 GMT (0009 HKT)
With the new pope himself a trained scientist, could the timing could be right for a new era of cooperation between the Vatican and science?
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Pope Francis is being painted as a humble and simple man, but his past is tinged with controversy.
ADVERTISEMENT